I ruffled a few feathers and provoked a few thoughts with my recent blog Is Urban Fantasy Really ALL About Sex? I also learned a few things about myself and the genres I love, which is cool, and is the whole point of writing blogs like this.
I stand by my central thesis: urban fantasy is the only genre in which sexual metaphor is at the heart of the definition of the genre. And yes, to the lady who pointed out in her comment that what vampires do is assault not sex. It’s not just assault, it’s RAPE, and often rape-murder. Which is why the only moral way to write about vampires is to treat them as vile disgusting creatures with no redeeming qualities.
Except, um, no one does that. Vampires are cool; we all love Angel-as-vampire more than Angel-as-good-guy. There are also plenty of YA books about vampires which tone down the sex, to make appealing characters of of them; and clever writers like Charlie Huston, Charlaine Harris and Kim Newman employ conceits about vegetarian vampires and surrogate blood to make their monsters morally acceptable. But hey – they’re still monsters!
There are exceptions to my urban fantasy thesis of course – Mike Carey’s Felix Castor is not a sexual metaphor, but he DOES hang out with a succubus. And Dante Valentine – as a private necromance – is by no means a monster. It just that *blushes embarrassingly* I find the books very sexy.
And this is what I’ve learned. I read all the Dante Valentine books thinking that the love story between Japhrimel and Dante was at the heart of it; yet clearly some fans, and Lili herself, deny that this is the most important aspect of the book. And Nicole Peeler also refutes my assumption that the vampire Ryu and the selkie Jane True will fall in love.
Indeed, Nicole has gone one step further, by betting me £50 (English sterling) that these two WON’T fall in love. And, sucker as I am, I took the bet.
The reason I’m a sucker is – Nicole is writing the damned books! So if there’s the slightest chance of real romance, she’s going to kill the damned vampire rather than risk paying me my fifty quid. Don’t deny it, Nicole! I know how sneaky you urban fantasy writers are!
Seriously though… :) It’s true that sometimes a writer’s characters take on a life of their own. And it’s also true that some readers see what they want to see. I don’t know for certain which of those two scenarios is the case here; but I do know that when I read a book I ALWAYS look for the love story.
And the more two key and sexually-charged characters hate each other and don’t need each other – the more I assume they will ultimately fall in love.
I, am, frankly, despite the graphic gratuitious violence of my own novels, a big softie.
But both Lili & Nicole – and this is my big discovery – are, despite their romantic/sexual subplots, first and foremost writing about tough and independent female characters. That is, I have learned, one of the driving forces behind their writing.
I also, in my own work, write about independent female characters (however screwed up they may be) but I can’t bear an ending in which love doesn’t triumph.
So, looking to the future: is Nicole going to break my heart? We shall see. I’ve only read the first book in her Jane True series; now there’s money on the table to incentivise me when I read the rest. Can Nicole be so cruel and heartless as to leave Jane True without a soul-mate, the one person she will love forever? Will she indeed kill off Ryu (undead though he is) just to thwart me? (But if she does – I win! There’s nothing so potent as the love one feels for a loved one who has died.)
Anyway, this is all good fun, and btw, huge grist for my own imaginative mill.
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